Word Confusion: Pincher vs Pincer vs Pinscher

Posted April 28, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 4 October 2017

A spider’s pincers may pinch, and while the spider himself may be a pincher, he’s not using pinchers, but pincers to pinch.

Hmmm, sounds like one of those alliterations, doesn’t it?

Actually, all my huff and dudgeon deflated when I ran across Merriam-Webster’s note that pinchers and pincers are interchangeable when it comes to pinching. I’d still stick with pincer when discussing military strategy, though. Even if the movement does pinch the enemy.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Pincher Pincer Pinscher
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: pinscher

boy's face contorted by pinching

“The Pinchers” by lincolnblues, via PhotoPin and under their CC license, is courtesy of Jeff Merrell in his post, “Pinching My Digital Networked Learning Self“.

Crab caught in a net

“Small Dungeness Crab netted on a Tide Flat” near Brinnon on the Hood Canal was photographed by Doug Wilson, 1939–, (NARA record: 8464433) is courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I’d rather that crab’s pincers pinch the net than my arm!

Miniature Pinscher

“Miniature Pinscher” is Sebastian Wallin’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

He’s quite the alert pinscher.

Part of Grammar:
Alternative spelling: pincers OR pinchers (use with a plural verb; they’re also the plural for the noun)
Usually pincers; also a pair of pincers and the plural for the noun
Alternative spelling: pinchers
A.k.a., Doberman pinscher
Plural for the noun: pinschers
Someone or something that pinches
Usually used with a plural verb

A tool made of two pieces of metal bearing blunt concave jaws that are arranged like the blades of scissors, used for gripping and pulling things

  • [Zoology] Front claw of a lobster, crab, or similar crustacean
Any of a breed of short-haired medium-sized dogs of German origin
He was a known pincher.

Watch out for Mary. She’s a pincher.

The pincher of my peach pies was finally caught!

Think about it. Spock was a pincher.

Grab the pincers if you want to pull that out.

The German blitzkrieg was the pincer movement at its most effective.

Look out for those pincers!

Don’t let the crab get his pincers in you.

“He attacked me from behind again, this time with his pincers.” – Fred Secombe, Goodbye Curate

“Often the Stilken will have great hooks or pincers in the place of forearms, which it uses with facility to seize its prey.” – Garth Nix Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr

The standard pinscher is an ancestor of the dobermann.

Pinschers were originally developed to go after rats on farms and for fighting or guarding.

Those pinschers always looks so scary when used as guard dogs in movies.

Adjective: pinchable, unpinched
Noun: penny-pincher, pinch, pinches
Verb: pinch, pinched, pinches, pinching
Adjective: pincerlike
History of the Word:
1 1250-1300 pinchen from the Anglo-French pinchier (equivalent to the Old French pincier and the Spanish pinchar), which is from the Vulgar Latin pīnctiāre in a variant of pūnctiāre meaning to prick (compare to pique)

2 Middle English from an Old Northern French variant of Old French pincier meaning to pinch.

Middle English from the Anglo-Norman French, which is from the Old French pincier meaning to pinch. First Known Use: 1917

Named for Friedrich Ludwig Dobermann, a German tax collector with a need for protection.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Spock at Console is courtesy of NBC Television and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. I can’t find the source for the shellfish claws or the barking pinscher; if anyone knows whose work this is, please let me know.